2013 preview: Detroit Lions
The 2013 NFL regular season is right around the corner. With that being said, it's time to launch our team previews. FOXSports.com contributor Taylor Jones will answer important questions for every franchise.
2012 Record: 4-12. Missed Playoffs.
Which player is under the most pressure?
After signing a contract extension that averages $18 million year for the next five years, all the pressure is clearly mounted on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford. Even though signing him with two years remaining on his rookie contract will clear cap room and most likely save the Lions a bigger contract in the future, the fans and local media won’t see it that way.
The contract extension pays $41.5 million in guaranteed money to a quarterback coming off a season in which he completed less than 60 percent of his passes and threw just three more touchdowns than interceptions.
With more money comes more responsibility, and it is Stafford’s responsibility to put a product on the field that more closely resembles the 2011 playoff team than the 4-12 team of a season ago.
What is the team's biggest obstacle?
This is interesting because the defensive line was supposed to be the Lions’ biggest strength entering the 2012 season. Now, it's their biggest unknown. Ndamukong Suh posted eight sacks last season, but for a second straight season, posted just half of the 66 total tackles we witnessed during his dominant rookie season.
Speaking of sacks, the team’s leader in 2012, Cliff Avril left via free-agency and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch has yet to reach an agreement with the Lions. When Detroit drafted Nick Fairley is 2011, this was supposed to become the most feared defensive line in all of football, but last year the Lions ranked just 20th in total sacks and gave up the 16th most rushing yards in the league. They addressed this concern with their fifth overall pick in April’s draft by selecting Ziggy Ansah from BYU. Ansah is extremely raw and may take a full season to develop into anything more than a situational pass rusher.
Which player stands the best chance to be a breakout performer?
Ryan Broyles tore his ACL for the second time in just 13 months in December but showed promise in just three starts with the team as a rookie. Despite fighting for playing time with Titus Young and Nate Burleson, Broyles managed to haul in 22 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns in limited action before undergoing season-ending knee surgery. Now without Young and Burleson entering his 11th season, Broyles will be counted on even more, but he must remain healthy and that is a big question mark.
What is the team's biggest addition/loss from the previous season?
Reggie Bush was a nice addition to this offense but he is far from the bell cow running back Detroit has been missing. Only the Cardinals have rushed the ball fewer times than Detroit since Jim Schwartz took over in 2009 and Bush isn’t going to change that. Bush leads all backs in receptions since entering the NFL in 2006 and will fill the void left by Jahvid Best, who caught 85 passes in 22 career starts before concussions forced an early retirement. So rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, the Lions identified who they are offensively and targeted the best receiving running back available on the market and that will pay dividends for both Bush and the Lions.
With all that said, the signing of safety, Glover Quin, may actually prove more beneficial in the long run. Having to face Aaron Rodgers and the pass happy Jay Cutler twice each season means you better have a lockdown secondary and Quin gives them stability at the safety position which they haven’t had in years.
What's the outlook for 2013?
Defining success for a team that has won just 22 games in the past four seasons and has just one winning season this century is a little bit tricky. Anything less than a playoff berth will be disappointing and could very easily mean the end of Jim Schwartz’s tenure.
The Lions’ 4-12 record was a huge step backwards after posting three consecutive seasons of an improved record. In a win-now league, the Lions could have been justified in firing Schwartz after last season, but he was given a life line and what I have to assume is a pretty short leash.
It’s postseason or bust for Schwartz and the Lions.